White House says US prepared to defend itself, allies against North Korea

DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ISTANBUL
Published 27.04.2017 00:52
Updated 27.04.2017 01:38
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph F. Dunford Jr. are seen on West Executive Drive after briefing U.S. senators on the situation in N. Korea in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. (AFP Photo)
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph F. Dunford Jr. are seen on West Executive Drive after briefing U.S. senators on the situation in N. Korea in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. (AFP Photo)

U.S. senators travelled to the White House Wednesday for an unusual briefing on the North Korean threat, as the Trump administration prepares a variety of options, including a possible military response, to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.

"Past efforts have failed to halt North Korea's unlawful weapons programs and nuclear and ballistic missile tests," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defence Secretary James Mattis and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a joint statement, calling it an "urgent national security threat."

The Trump administration said that North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons is an urgent national security threat ,and the U.S. is weighing a broad range of options, including diplomatic, economic and military preparations, a senior national security official told reporters on the condition of anonymity.

The response is dependent on North Korea's actions, said the official, who declined to outline what military options were under consideration.

The decision to take the unusual step of briefing senators at the White House grounds, rather than at the Capitol, was designed to convey the seriousness of the threat, the official said.

President Donald Trump's approach "aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners," Tillerson, Mattis and Coats said.

That included calling on other nations to pressure North Korea to return to dialogue.

"The United States seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," they said. "We remain open to negotiations towards that goal. However, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our Allies."

The latest move comes as tension soars on the Korean peninsula following a series of missile launches by the North and warnings from the Trump administration that military action was an "option on the table."

Still, Pentagon officials have stressed to Trump there are no easy options for military interventions in North Korea.

Meanwhile, several news outlets reported that the U.S. is considering putting North Korea on its state sponsors of terrorism list, citing a senior White House official.

"We are looking at a broad range of options obviously across all elements of national power," the official said on condition of anonymity.

If relisted as a state sponsor of terrorism, North Korea will join Iran, Syria and Sudan, being subject to "restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions."

North Korea had previously been considered a state sponsor of terrorism after the bombing of a South Korean flight in 1987 but then president George W Bush removed the designation in 2008.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter